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The Lovebirds Review: Issa Rae & Kumail Nanjiani Elevate A Mediocre Netflix Rom-Com 

The Lovebirds
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Written by Michael Vacchiano 

It’s always a treat to see two likable and talented comedic actors on the rise end up collaborating on the same project. It’s also especially nice to see when said actors have seemingly followed similar career trajectories. Issa Rae (Insecure, Little) and Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley, The Big Sick) have both starred in critically acclaimed HBO series. They’ve worked behind-the-scenes as writers/producers on their various projects and have received award nominations for doing so. And now, Rae and Nanjiani have teamed up for Netflix’s latest action rom-com The Lovebirds, and their immense talents and chemistry are what make the otherwise mediocre film really enjoyable. 

Jibran (Nanjiani) and Leilani (Rae) are a young couple living together in New Orleans who are clearly stuck in a rut. After four years together, the honeymoon phase (shown in the movie’s opening credits) is very much over as they constantly bicker and disagree on even the most trivial things. An argument on the way to a dinner party leads to them breaking up…and unintentionally involving themselves in a hit-and-run and resulting in a murder! After fleeing the scene and being too nervous to go to the police, the pair decide to solve the mystery themselves to prove their innocence. 

Originally set to be released theatrically in April by Paramount, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has led to The Lovebirds being streamed directly for home viewing. The film’s release could have been postponed to a later date like other more anticipated big-budget movies, but, in a time when all laughter and entertainment is appreciated, it being available now is very welcome. The film’s story is as ludicrous as it sounds, and it’s nothing we haven’t seen before in films like Date Night and Game Night. However, a lack of originality isn’t the problem you might think, as, like those other films, the draw and appeal of The Lovebirds rests on the shoulders of its two leads. 

Immediately from the get-go, Rae and Nanjiani display instant chemistry and don’t let up for the film’s entire 90-minute runtime. We totally buy into their characters being a longtime couple who’ve let their relationship fizzle and sour over time. The actors hit every button as two people annoying and frustrating each other at every turn. He’s the organized critical thinker and she’s the impulsive free spirit, and so on. You know at the onset that the events of the evening will help the couple reignite their fading sparks, but that won’t stop you from still rooting for Jibran and Leilani to find the killer and ultimately realize that they belong together. 

Rae and Nanjiani, despite the far-fetched premise, throw themselves headfirst into every obstacle that comes their characters’ way. During the exploits of their wild night, the duo invades a fraternity dorm room and encounters a rich, Southern-fried couple with hilarious torture methods. The insane cherry on top is an Eyes Wide Shut-style sex cult in which Jibran and Leilani must navigate to hopefully solve the mystery. Besides the leads, the only cast member who stands out amongst the wacky chaos is Pitch Perfect series alum Anna Camp as the off-kilter Southern wife of a New Orleans Congressman caught up in the mystery as well. 

The Lovebirds director, Michael Showalter, reteams with Nanjiani after collaborating on the latter’s autobiographical dramedy The Big Sick. Him being familiar with his star is his biggest asset, as he plays to the strengths of both of his leads and lets them do most of the work. While the film’s plot and scenario are nothing new, it still would have been nice to see the New Orleans setting be incorporated a bit more into the action. The backdrop of Jibran and Leilani’s absurd adventure could be easily interchangeable with any nameless city one can think of. 

It can’t be stated enough, however, that the movie’s main selling point is Rae and Nanjiani and all that they bring to the table. The charismatic actors are clearly having a blast here, and the generic structure of the story often feels irrelevant to the fun. Besides their comedic timing, it’s just plain enjoyable to watch Jibran and Leilani debate the differences between MythBusters and The Amazing Race. Their romantic energy is still palpable while changing various outfits in front of each other, and it’s fun watching them engage in an impromptu Katy Perry sing-along. 

The Lovebirds doesn’t reinvent the wheel by any means, and the action rom-com subgenre is already beginning to feel a little overcrowded. However, fans of Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani aren’t going to care because the actors are at their peak right now and their chemistry is damn near perfect in every scene. It’s not too bold to say we could be seeing the next great on-screen partnership of its kind (think of the longtime pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore). Whether I’m getting ahead of myself or not, Rae and Nanjiani are the ones who make this average cinematic trip into an exciting ride worth taking. 

The Lovebirds is currently is streaming on Netflix.

Pop-Break Staff
Pop-Break Staffhttps://thepopbreak.com
Founded in September 2009, The Pop Break is a digital pop culture magazine that covers film, music, television, video games, books and comics books and professional wrestling.

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